Bret M. Webb, Ph.D., P.E., D.CE
University of South Alabama
150 Jaguar Drive, SH3142
Mobile, AL 36688 USA
Phone: (251) 460-6174
Fax: (251) 461-1400

Research Positions

Currently seeking an MSCE student to perform research on groundwater impacts to coastal lagoons. A research assistantship is available. Contact me for more details.

Current Research Assistants

SE Students
Garland Pennison


MSCE Students
Patrick Hautau
Marshall Hayden
Kate Haynes
Jackie Wittmann


Undergraduate Students
Derek Kelly

Former Students

MSCE Students
Bryan Groza (2016)
Kari Servold (2015)
Chris Marr (2013)
Richard Allen (2013)
Miyuki Matthews (2012)


Post Docs
Jon Risinger
Jungwoo Lee

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I recently completed a document that introduces transportation professionals to coastal modeling. The guidance document, entitled A Primer on Modeling in the Coastal Environment, was written for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. It is now available for distribution. You can download a copy of the manual by clicking on the cover image at right. The document abstract/summary is provided below.


Document Summary

This manual provides an introduction to coastal hydrodynamic modeling for transportation engineering professionals. The information presented in this manual can be applied to better understand the use of numerical models in the planning and design of coastal highways.

Here, the term “coastal highways” is meant to generally capture the roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure that is exposed to, or occasionally exposed to, tides, storm surge, waves, erosion, and sea level rise near the coast. The hydrodynamic models that serve as the focus of this manual are used to describe these processes and their impacts on coastal highways through flooding, wave damage, and scour.

The primary audience for this manual is transportation professionals ranging across the spectrum of project delivery (e.g., planners, scientists, engineers, etc.). After reading this manual the audience will understand when, why, and at what level coastal models should be used in the planning and design of coastal highways and bridges; and when to solicit the expertise of a coastal engineer. This manual provides transportation professionals with the information needed to determine scopes of work, prepare requests for professional services, communicate with consultants, and evaluate modeling approaches and results.

The manual also provides guidance on when and where hydraulic and hydrodynamic models are used, and how they are used to determine the dependence of bridge hydraulics on the riverine or coastal design flood event.

The manual also gives recommendations for the use of models in coastal vulnerability assessments.

FHWA GI Pilot title slide... click for animation

We are wrapping up a one-year collaborative project between USA, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), and the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (USDOT FHWA).  This was one of five pilot projects funded by USDOT FHWA to evaluate the use of green infrastructure for improving the resilience of coastal transportation systems. The pilot projects are an initial step in a more comprehensive effort by USDOT FHWA to develop an implementation guide for nature-based solutions that improve resilience. More information about that project is found at the following link {click here}.


Our pilot project with MDOT was focused on improving the resilience of a coastal bridge in Mississippi to hurricane hazards and future sea level rise. More specifically, our green infrastructure approach was designed to address the vulnerability of bridge approaches and low-elevation bridge spans. The causes of damage to the bridge during Katrina were determined through the use of hydrodynamic models. A hindcast simulation of Katrina was performed using the coupled ADCIRC+SWAN models. Those results were extracted and used to force a high-resolution, two-dimensional simulation using the XBeach model. An animation of some of those results is provided below.


To that end, a pair of vegetated berms were designed in order to mitigate storm damage now and in the future during extreme events.


An overview of the entire pilot project is available in a recorded webinar at the following link {click here for webinar}. Ours is the second presentation in the webinar recording (at about the 25-minute mark). Webinar recordings for all five pilot projects, as well as other presentations in an ongoing USDOT FHWA resilience series, can be found at the following link {click here for all webinars}. A brief animation of our presentation slides is available by clicking on the title slide image in this post.


Katrina Hindcast using XBeach, forced with ADCIRC+SWAN output…

XBeach animation

Hindcast of Katrina using XBeach: Terrain elevation contour colors correspond to the lower blue-green-brown-white color scale. Selected bathymetric contours are shown as dashed white lines on the surface. The animated water surface is contoured by significant wave height using the blue-white-red scale. Vectors represent the depth-averaged flow magnitude and direction, but only at every 1/10th grid cell for clarity.


Title slide image for ASBPA 2017 presentation

I recently presented the results of a year-long research project on synthesizing the capacity of natural and nature-based features (NNBF) to reduce coastal storm hazards. The presentation was given in the Living Shorelines session at ASPA 2017 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October. The project, and presentation, were a collaboration between researchers at USA, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Northeastern University, the City College of New York, and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center who funded the project.


More than 200 published research papers were identified, evaluated, and synthesized in this work. The synthesis focuses on the ability of marshes, mangroves, maritime forests, seagrasses, reefs, beaches, and dunes to attenuate waves, storm surge, flooding, and erosion. With very few exceptions, the literature does not contain unified methods for analyzing and describing these capabilities, and the range of values describing their performance is broad. Regardless of the uncertainty in published values, there is literature that supports the capacity of each of the NNBF considered to provide some measurable reduction of coastal storm hazards. A logical next step is to perform a detailed meta-analysis on values reported in these publications in order to determine average performance values and characterizations of their uncertainty.


A short animation of the presentation can be viewed by clicking on the title slide shown here. Please contact me for a full copy of the presentation.


I use SonTek’s HydroSurveyor (HS) software on our Jag Ski when collecting bathymetric data. I prefer to use this instead of their RiverSurveyor Live software because of its line planning, navigation, and absolute RTK capabilities. One of the nice things about HS–when it was released–was its ability to reference aerial imagery via online map tile servers. However, this capability disappeared in early 2017 when the MapQuest tile server ceased to exist.

Not wanting to lose the ability to plan surveys with current aerial imagery in the background, I decided to figure out how to import imagery. While this capability of HS has always existed, and while it is documented in the user manual, I never had the patience to figure it out. Until I had to! Here is a step-by-step process that I followed to make this work. Note that I will reference the GIS software “QGIS” in my steps. This stands for Quantum GIS (click here). Any GIS software could be used as a substitute, but I prefer to use QGIS because it works across all computing platforms and I commonly have to swap back and forth between a Mac and a PC.


  1. Download NAIP imagery from USGS National Map Viewer (click here)
  2. The image will be a JPEG2000 (jp2). Images after 2013 are projected in WGS 1984 Web Mercator Auxiliary Sphere projection (EPSG 3857), which is exactly what you need for the HS software.
  3. Open your image in QGIS, define the CRS as EPSG 3857 (WGS84 Mercator)
  4. Save your file with a new name as a rendered GTIFF using the same CRS (EPSG 3857)
  5. In QGIS, go to Raster / Projections / Extract Projection. Select your file created above (tiff) and then process.
  6. Rename the world file with extension “tfw” instead of “wld”. (Note that the remaining steps will not work unless you complete this one. The HS software requires a world file, but you don’t get one when you download the imagery from the USGS National Map Viewer.)
  7. Open HydroSurveyor, select Tasks / Import Georeferenced Image, and then select your tiff file(s).
  8. Select WGS-84 Mercator in the following window.
  9. Save the tiled data with a new name.
  10. In HydroSurveyor, click “Add Layer” and then “Browse for File” … select your tile files.
  11. Note that you may need to expand your image layer using “>>” and then select “zoom to layer” in order to see your imagery.


Do you have to use imagery from the USGS National Map Viewer? No, not at all. Any georeferenced aerial imagery will work so long as you can 1) reproject it to WGS84 Mercator (EPSG 3857) and 2) extract/create/obtain the image world file. That said, another good option for imagery is TerraServer, but those images can be expensive.


Dog RIver Park

Dog River Park: Mobile, AL

Some of the usual suspects in Alabama and Mississippi have been busy developing technical guidance on living shorelines. What’s different about these new documents is that they are aimed at property owners and contractors instead of practitioners, scientists, engineers, etc. Our goal, as a community of living shorelines practitioners, has been to push some of our knowledge down to these underserved groups in hopes that they might make use of our regional general permits for living shorelines in Alabama and Mississippi.

Well after a couple of years of hard work (and some delays), I’m happy to say that they are finally available. Please click on the links below to download the PDFs. These projects involved too many friends and agencies to list here in this post, so please be sure to review the acknowledgments in each document. However, I would like to express our collective gratitude to the primary funding agencies (NOAA and GOMA) as well as the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the Southern Environmental Law Center for their support and hard work.


Living Shorelines: A Guide for Alabama Property Owners


Living Shorelines: A Technical Guide for Contractors in Alabama and Mississippi.


{Edit: Fixed a problem with the links. The documents should load in the same browser window/tab now without trying to open a new one. Apologies for the troubles.}